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King's concert shows they are new contenders in the pop music world

King's Amber Strother at the Icehouse

King's Amber Strother at the Icehouse

The stage was bathed in blue lights, a deep blue that cast an almost purplish haze.

The three performers, dressed in black with lots of bracelets and fancy hair piled high, took the stage at the Icehouse in south Minneapolis just before midnight on Friday night.

For the next 53 minutes, King delivered the kind of hushed, inventive and captivating performance that suggests they will be one of the more intriguing acts to emerge in 2016.

Amber Strother, the co-lead singer, and her older sister Paris, the main composer and lone instrumentalist onstage, are from Minneapolis, and they moved to Los Angeles a few years ago where they formed King with Anita Bias.

The trio has crafted a gauzy, jazzy, soulful sound with complex vocal harmonies and subtle rhythms and washes. They are intoxicating live with a vibe that’s warmer than their breezy, atmospheric debut album, “We Are King,” which was released early this month.

“Their sound wraps you in a blanket,” said the stranger next to me. Her description was perfect.

It was hard to tell who was having a better time – the sell-out crowd or King, especially the Strother sisters who were blushingly thrilled with the hometown reception. (They didn’t mention that Prince and his band were in the house.)

Amber had a sultry soprano, Bias a lush alto. Sometimes their voices were in unison, sometimes in harmony. When they’d lock into an organic groove and repeat the refrain on, say “Hey” or “The Story,” it was mesmerizing, making you want to dance or make romance.

Think Sade squared, fronting Soul II Soul. Or maybe Janet Jackson cooing, with some Earth, Wind & Fire harmonies, Stevie Wonder electric piano, some Princely ballads. Except King sounded timeless and current. 

Paris, who did much of the talking between songs, laid down the rhythms and melodies on a keyboard, laptop and sampler.

The material was drawn from “We Are King” and a 2011 EP. Highlights included the trippy romantic “Red Eye” and the hypnotic “Love Song” with its cascading vocal intricacies.  

King explained that “The Greatest,” another highlight, was about Muhammad Ali, which seemed like an unusual throwback topic for 20-somethings.

Of course, no one questions that Ali is the greatest in boxing, and, after Friday’s performance, it would be easy to argue that King is a major contender in the music world in 2016.

TPT giants Catherine Allan, Richard Hudson honored

Catherine Allan and Richard Hudson get "plaqued" by TPT president Jim Pagliarini.

They may not be as well known as Ernie and Bert, but Catherine Allan and Richard Hudson have been as much a part of public television as anyone living on Sesame Street.

The two executive producers, who have played major roles in such heralded projects as "Hoop Dreams," "SciGirls" and "Benjamin Franklin" were honored Thursay night at TPT's new headquarters as both officially ease into their retirement years.

"My life has been flashing before my eyes in slow motion ever since I walked into this room," said Hudson, gazing over a crowd that included storyteller Kevin Kling, the subject of a recent documentary produced by Allan. "It sort of takes your breath away."

In addition to speeches from TPT president Jim Pagliarini and vice president Gerry Richman, there were taped testimonials from the National Science Foundation's program director Valentine Kass, Corporation for Public Broadcasting senior VP Jennifer Lawson and former PBS executive John Wilson.

Both Allan and Hudson have received Emmys for their work and have a played a significant role in keeping TPT as one of hte most productive local stations for national programming.

"I like to think the spirit, especially the willingness to take risks, has kept going," Allan said.

While both are officially retiring, you can still expect them to pop up in the halls of the station. Allan is still in the midst of rounding up money for a project on Joseph Stalin and Hudson will be following through on a project he started that is leading to a Hispanic version of "SciGirls."


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